Typewriters Helping with Creative Disctraction

Recently I had the pleasure of seeing a documentary titled “California Typewriter”. The documentary focused around a typewriter repair shop named California Typewriter, and wrapped around that central character were interviews with several people talking about their relationships with typewriters.

Musician John Mayer was one of the people interviewed, and he mentioned a benefit of using a typewriter that really struck a cord with me as a creator. He talked about how the typewriter as a tool removed disctractions for him during the writing process.

It was a simple distraction he was referring to that happens on computers (no not social media anything like that.). The distraction he brought up was spell check. That little red underline letting you know something may be spelled incorrectly.

The reason it’s distracting is that it breaks the flow of thought. For a micro second attention is pulled away from writing to correcting a word. With a typewriter, unless you the writer see’s the mistake, they will simply keep writing, and optimally stay in a state of “flow” as some creators describe when they get into a groove. Such a simple problem fixed, and a very impactful one. John Mayer in the documentary shows a few sheets of his music writing, and they are full of typo’s, but it doesn’t matter because he understands what he meant and ultimately he was able focus on the song and get his creativity out knowing he could make corrections later if essential.

This begs the question of what the equivalents to this can be for other mediums. Naturally as a photographer I think of using a film camera vs a digital camera. A film camera prevents checking the shots after every click and just focusing on the subject in the moment, and allowing that moment to continue on rather than having the distraction of stopping to check what the photo’s look like while shooting.

It would be easy to start to view the newer technologies as evil with their modern distractions and switch to living in a self professed analog utopia only using the older technologies… but I know myself and that’s not going to happen. That said, I think it’s great to jump back and forth.

Use the analog to slow down and remove some distraction when time allows. Even temporarily jumping into those worlds, for me at least, jogs my mind and re-sets it to a new focus and speed.

I highly recommend this documentary to anyone, not just typewriter fans. Just be warned, you may find yourself like me all of a sudden finding the spell check a major irritant. Thank goodness it’s a setting that can be turned off!